Monday, October 12, 2009
In order to try to pump some energy into their dull sport, baseball announcers are constantly reminding their viewers that they are witnessing history:
"You saw it here first, folks! That is the first time a third baseman has thrown two balls into the stands in the same inning! Wow, some lucky fan has a valuable souvenir. . . . Wait a minute, folks. Our statistician is telling me that this is not the first time that has happened. . . . Has it ever happened in this ball park? Oh. In the third inning? . . . Un-huh, but was it a day game?. . . So there you have it folks, we have confirmed that this is the first time in baseball history that a National League third baseman has thrown two balls into the stands in the same inning during an inter-league day game played in an American League park in the year that he is due to become a free agent! Wow! Imagine that!"
And so, according to this view of history, Phillies' Slugger Ryan Howard (pictured) made history, as reported on CNN.com, when he hit his 200th home run in his 658th major league game, making him the fastest player to reach the milestone, besting the previous record by 48 games. It is a great achievement, but I’m not sure if it is really one for the history books, even if CNN says it is. The lucky fan to retrieve the ball was 12-year-old Jennifer Valdivia, who apparently bested her 17-year-old brother in the treasure hunt.
An official from the home team, the Florida Marlins, then reportedly escorted Jennifer and her brother to the Phillies’ dugout. There, CNN reports that the following transaction occurred:
A Phillies employee, Jennifer says, told her if she handed over the ball, she could come back after the game, meet the slugger and get him to autograph it. She gave the ball up. In exchange, she got cotton candy and a soda.
Alas, after the game, she and her family went to the Philllies’ clubhouse as directed, but Ryan Howard never showed up. A security guard gave her a signed ball, but it wasn’t the ball. Jennifer testified that she was, “like, really sad.” Jennifer’s mother was more than sad, she was “steamed.” Eventually, she was also represented by an attorney who, through the alchemical processes in which attorneys specialize, metamorphosed anger and disappointment into a legal claim for $15,000. The Phillies’ and Howard’s resistance were thereby overcome. They returned the home run ball to Jennifer and also paid her attorney's fees.
Jennifer says that she intends to keep the ball and to show it to her kids. I hope she does, rather than selling it. As CNN notes, letting fans keep balls is a way of letting them connect with their baseball heroes. We ought not to put a price tag on being a part of history.